Pay It Forward: Volunteer Opportunities with Hospice Atlanta
With Labor Day approaching, it’s a great time to remember that not all important and meaningful work comes with a paycheck.
Volunteering for a local organization is a good way to give back to your community by enriching the lives of others and yourself. With kids back in school, you may have time to dedicate to volunteering as well.
If you are looking for volunteer opportunities in and around the Atlanta area, look no further than Hospice Atlanta Center, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2016. Hospice Atlanta Center, operated by Visiting Nurse Health System—Georgia’s largest home health and hospice care provider—offers holistic hospice care to over 1,700 patients per year.
With the Center, in-home and pediatric hospice care, Hospice Atlanta ensures patients and their families get the treatment and support they need to live out the end of their lives in comfort and with dignity. Hospice Atlanta offers a wide variety of volunteer opportunities, which means there is a job for nearly everyone.
Why should you volunteer at Hospice Atlanta?
Volunteering with Hospice Atlanta is unique because it allows people to make a significant impact in the lives of patients and their families. Hospice Atlanta works not only to ease the suffering of its patients, but also helps the families cope by offering bereavement services for 13 months after a patient has passed away.
While volunteering can be challenging and at times might trigger an emotional response, the work is important. Ann Serrie, volunteer coordinator for Hospice Atlanta, says her volunteers often feel they are just as rewarded as the patients they help.
“This is an environment for some that is very scary, but it can also be sacred, and to be able to be with somebody on their journey and make their life as fulfilling as possible in their last days is just such a gift and a privilege,” Serrie says.
Current volunteers at Hospice Atlanta range from ages 16 to 86. Volunteers might be students who are looking to fulfill community service hours, to elderly people who want to comfort patients and families during a difficult time. Anyone can be a volunteer as long as they are willing to commit their time to helping the patients and staff of Hospice Atlanta.
Around 60 percent of the volunteers have had a loved one in hospice care at some point in their lives, but many volunteers have not had previous experience with hospice.
What do volunteers do?
The two main functions of volunteers with Hospice Atlanta are companionship and caregiver respite. Companionship means spending time talking to, praying with, or even just sitting quietly with patients in both the inpatient center or in an individual’s home. Companionship is often a great option for outgoing volunteers who love to talk with patients and listen to their amazing stories.
Caregiver respite is also an essential function of Hospice Atlanta volunteers. Volunteers who provide caregiver respite go into patients’ homes and monitor them while their primary caregiver is away. Serrie says caregiver respite gives families peace of mind knowing that the volunteer is in the home with their loved one, even if just for a short period of time.
Although companionship and caregiver respite are the main ways to volunteer, there are several other ways to get involved.
- If you have a special talent, such as playing an instrument or singing, you can perform for the hospice patients.
- The Pet Peace of Mind program allows animal-loving volunteers to take care of a hospice patient’s pets when the patient is unable to do so.
- If volunteering for camp interests you, Camp STARS—a weekend-long bereavement camp—provides families who have just lost a loved one with coping mechanisms and bonding time with other families in the same situation.
- For Veterans, the We Honor Veterans program recognizes the unique needs of Veterans and their families at end of life.
- If you do not want to volunteer for patient care, you can volunteer in administration by putting together mailings and application packets.
How do I become a volunteer?
In order to become a volunteer, Hospice Atlanta requires that you attend a training session that will prepare you for work in hospice care and place you with the right volunteer duty. Training sessions take place several times a year, either over a weekend, or over the course of four evenings. Prospective volunteers must complete a volunteer application with two references, a background check, and, once you become an official volunteer, a tuberculosis screening.
Visit volunteer to find out more information about upcoming training dates and to complete prospective volunteer forms.
Currently, Hospice Atlanta is in need of more volunteers that live outside I-285 to help with outpatient hospice, as well as Veterans for the We Honor Veterans program.